With the final battle of Legends of Windemere written and published, I’ve begun thinking about the stories that happen afterwards. My next series takes place a few hundreds years before the champions, which gives me time to consider all of the changes that future heroes will introduce to readers. After all, the Baron and the champions had a massive battle and it doesn’t make any sense for there to be no eternal scars that remind people of the event. We have stuff like that in our world with ruins, preserved battlefields, and museums. So, why should Windemere be any different?
I think the physical effects of war on a landscape tend to get overlooked, but I can never figure out why. I was about to write that people don’t see these every day, but there are places on Earth where the scars of war are daily visuals. Could it be that there is a lot of weight to such a thing, so authors reserve it for a plot point? Having characters walk through an abandoned battlefield creates a certain atmosphere much like a graveyard or a dark road. There’s a sadness as well as some awe and maybe even fear that the events will return. In fantasy, you can have undead appear, so battlefields usually have a specific use in these stories.
Still, what about scars that aren’t battlefields? Cities and towns that have been damaged in the fight may rebuild. Even if they don’t put up monuments, buildings will be erected to replace those lost. A slight change in material or the fact that they look newer than their neighbors can be a reminder. So, the scale of war scars isn’t always epic, but the events do make a change. It certainly is easier to make the visible parts of this so big that they can’t be ignored. Craters that nothing grow in, abandoned cities, fields of swords driven into the ground, swamps of bodies, and the list keeps going of what I’ve seen in the fantasy genre. Honestly, it makes fantasy worlds seem to be nothing more than wars and patches of corpses.
As far as the lasting scars, you could even have the locals celebrate a holiday around the event or have a distrust towards outsiders. These are parts of world building as well because they help create the scenes and give a history. In fact, I would say that ancient wars are essential part of a world’s history and helps give a sense of the types of people that live within the story even if they weren’t part of the war. You can see how certain groups relate to each other or understand the existence of various treaties. Personally, I like setting things up like this instead of having races get along or hate each other simply on principle. A great example is how elves and dwarves ALWAYS appear to despise each other. Most fantasy worlds won’t give you a reason, so you can assume it’s because Tolkien did it. Although, I never understood why authors focus on that part and now how Legolas and Gimli became friends.
Another ‘scar’ that one can find in fantasy is what I guess you could call a roaming scar or maybe just a remnant. With so much magic being flung about in some of these battles, it isn’t strange to discover a creature or weapon that was unleashed. Maybe it was created by accident or it was what was used to end the war, but it’s still moving around even though the battle is over. Sometimes they travel far and wide or they might remain in the area as a guardian. Now, these tend to only come about when the story requires them because having a super weapon appear for no reason makes little sense. Ghosts and zombies can fall into this as well since areas of massive death are known for creating such things.
So, what do you think of this aspect of world building? Have you ever used it or given it more than a passing notice? How much does a war scar effect the history of the world you’re either reading or writing?